I think that Franklin High is in the fictional town of Premont, Massachusetts- somewhere near Havermill. There are several Franklin Highs in Massachusetts. This is a fictional one. You are officially awesome if you figure out the (obscure) reason that I chose Massachusetts. It has to do with what happened to Josh Slatsky. A little.
I'll probably update this Mondays, Fridays, and whenever-I-have-some-extra-time-on-my-hands-days from now on.
Reviews are welcome, including criticism and flames. I'm not offended easily. /review-hound
Hanson was, all things considered, doing a pretty good job of keeping order in the auditorium. With nearly two thousand panicking students and 85 panicking teachers, it was a miracle that it hadn't turned into an all-out riot. Standing on the stage where just last week the Drama Club had put on an excellent production of Romeo and Juliet, equipped with one microphone and one speaker near the back of the huge room, this was hardly what he had envisioned when he applied for the job. Hiring for administrative position. Must have experience in discipline, public speaking, and calming students after possibly supernatural circumstances.
He lowered his head and spoke into the microphone. "All right, I'd like everybody to calm down now and listen to me. Whatever is going on probably isn't as bad as it seems. I've heard people talking about things that aren't true." The murmur rose again as the feedback died down, and just for a second Joe thought that maybe, just maybe, they were right. Why not? He really didn't believe that everything could be explained by science. But right now there were more important things than what was happening... such as preventing outright revolt.
"Things that just aren't true. You're all nearly adults, and that's old enough to know that if something unexplained is going on, you wait for an explanation, or you try to find one yourself. You don't jump to conclusions. Especially not when those conclusions don't make any sense. Do you really believe that everyone outside has disappeared? How could that happen?" Please, he thought, don't let anyone bring up religion. He'd seen some particularly bloody- figuratively- freedom of religion arguments in his time. And he didn't want to deal with it now.
Thankfully, nobody did. But Tyler Marston, redheaded and cocky, a senior who would have finally graduated only a month from now (and Joe would be happy to be rid of him; most kids were good, but there were just some bad nuts in there), spoke out. He was famous within Franklin High for dissenting. Against the school censoring the Internet, against limits on dress, against plainly inflammatory symbols. And he was in his element.
"If you don't want us to jump to conclusions, why can't we just walk out the door?"
Joe Hanson didn't even have to look at Marston to see who it was. Who else could it be? He sighed, mentally preparing for the debate and for having to shut Marston up before people started agreeing with him. "That's actually a very good question. And I agree that it seems like it would be the sensible thing to do. But the thing is, we don't know what's happening. I think it's just something harmless, but we don't need to take the risk."
"If there's something harmless going on then why aren't we doing something about it? We can leave if we want to!"
"Tyler, it's safer just to stay where we-"
"We have the right to know what's going on!" Tyler, with that look on his face that Joe had come to associate with a cause over the nearly four years he'd been at Franklin High, interrupted. "Come on, you know I'm right! If nothing's happening, let's just walk out the door!" He paused for a few seconds, and before Joe could even try to say anything, repeated it, chanted it. "Let's walk out the door! Walk out the door!"
Looking at the crowd of students, Joe saw at least twenty chanting right along with Tyler Marston... and heard a hundred, maybe hundreds, more. Growing every second, another student- teachers too- adding another voice to the mix, and Tyler stood from his seat at the back of the auditorium near the doors to the hall. "Walk out the door!"
He, as well as what seemed like half of the people in the auditorium, did.
"...So I'm kind of worried about Harvard. If we're in here that much longer I'm gonna miss the match in Havermill, and I heard there are going to be cheerleading talent scouts from all over, 'cause it's really big." Kristi Slatsky, Josh Slatsky's twin sister (a junior- Josh had started kindergarten one year early, and she hadn't), smiled prettily. Denial, thought Carl Reuter. Supernatural stuff going down? Brother gone (in Carl's educated opinion) crazy? Doesn't matter, think about cheerleading! He'd seen it hundreds of times, although not with these specifics.
Carl didn't think they'd be out in time for the April 8 football match, to be perfectly honest.
"Kristi, I'm sure they'll understand. Whatever's happening right now, the whole world- or at least the U.S.- is watching. We'll probably be heroes when we get out."
She smiled again. "I hope so! I've always wanted to go to Harvard. Josh wants to go to Columbia, but Harvard is like the ultimate school."
She was the kind of person Carl Reuter had always slightly disliked. Perennially perky, with no definite plans for the future. Even when they should be feeling down, just slightly, slightly like maybe your brother just went insane and you're locked inside the school, they don't. So it was hard, very hard, not to just scream at her. It was mostly his own frustration... but wasn't it at least slightly her?
"Speaking of Josh, Kristi... aren't you worried about him?"
She frowned slightly. "He's still there. I mean, this is just for now. He'll get better. That sounds dumb, I guess, but it's that thing twins have? I've been with him forever. He's there."
Carl nodded. The idea of Josh himself- who Carl had liked, who had been a little less creepy than his younger-by-one-hour sister- still being in that empty shell slightly horrified him. "You should probably go to the assembly, you know."
She wrinkled her nose. "Nothing's gonna happen that I don't already know about."
He forced out a grin. "Oh, come on. Mr. Hanson might just surprise you."
That was not what she was talking about, and they both knew it. But before he could think about it, he heard it:
"Walk out the door!"
Somehow Josh Slatsky, Tamara realized, was not in the nurse's room.
She hadn't left the room since she'd seen him last. And she would have noticed him going past her desk, situated in the middle of the office like it was. But the window (which she doubted had opened in twenty years) was shut and caked with a layer of mold, and Josh Slatsky was nowhere to be found.
The other secretary looked up. "Yeah?"
"Did you see Josh Slatsky go out?"
"No. Isn't he there?"
Tamara opened the door to the nurse's room. It was small enough to see easily that Josh Slatsky wasn't, in fact, there.
"That's funny. Well, I didn't see him. Are you going to the assembly?" Susie smiled.
She was about to answer 'no'. But the thought occurred to her that it might be a good idea to do that, after all.
Josh watched them. This always happened- he knew that now. Every time they had a chance. It would have been sad, but he was slowly losing his remembrance of them. Except for one, of course. The anchor who would bind him to this, what he now thought of as rock bottom. The anchor that would bind him? No, who.
She wasn't there. That was good. She was above him now.
Watching as the human tide poured out of the doors. They were open, but not the open doors. The mass of people headed towards the school's front door. Chanting, yelling, and the doors (that had always been open) opened once again.
The redheaded leader of the tide, running. He stopped.
Josh waited. Five more minutes at the most.
The group slowed and stopped behind him. They were almost all outside, though. Too late?
The leader fell to his knees, screaming. It was always the leaders, wasn't it? And that included Josh himself.
The screaming spread as more of them realized what the leader was looking at. Even Josh couldn't see it... though he certainly would eventually. And they couldn't see it. They never would.
It was quiet- as he had thought- within five minutes.
The ones who were still inside- few of them as there were- were staring openmouthed at what wasn't even suggested to them. One, a small girl who looked more like a middle schooler- was still screaming. A few others, too.
As a man he vaguely recognized arrived, Josh Slatsky smiled at nothing in particular.
He walked out the open door. Welcoming it as it enveloped him.
As what was no longer Josh Slatsky stood just outside of the threshold, the last even vaguely human thing that it would ever think came to the top of its mind:
Kristi and Josh on bikes, riding around Premont. Between the lines of their conversation is the twin-bond that connects them. Kristi's bike slows and stops. He doesn't need to ask. "Look," she says, pointing to a field.
It isn't a field. It's a graveyard. They walk between the rows, reverently breathing only a little more than what's directly under the graves. It's ten in the morning, spring, and a weekend. Josh is in fifth grade, and so he knows about dew. Kristi, a fourth grader, has to have it explained to her. But it's there on the grass and on the flowers.
"Look at this one!" Josh nearly yells. Then claps a hand over his mouth. Kristi looks. "Cool."
On the plain grave- Randolph Whatley- is the inscription:
Not Dead. Only Sleeping.
I'm having fun with this story. And Josh is only kind of gone. Next chapter: even more new characters. Maybe even some plot.